Jaunts to Sim Lim Square

Jaunts to Sim Lim Square

I threw away two bulging bags full of games on Sunday. Down the chute went PC classics such as System Shock 2, Baldur's Gate and FreeSpace 2. These were seminal titles which were still in pristine condition, with each game disc nestled in individual jewel cases.

Except that none of them was an original copy. They were all pirated versions from more than a decade ago, when I had more time than money.

I had bought these games at Sim Lim Square. The electronics and IT mall is back in the spotlight again recently for all the wrong reasons. However, as far as I can remember, it always had an unsavoury reputation.

The shops which I bought my pirated wares from often had no signage. There was no decor to speak of, just bare concrete walls and floors. That was fine with me because these shops had racks of pirated computer games and software.

I never knew if they would still be in business the next time I visited. Police crackdowns meant that the disreputable crew who operated these shops was an ever-changing one. The only constants were their Hokkien vulgarities and coloured hair.

In the end, the Internet and BitTorrent downloads killed the pirated game shop.

As the 3-D graphics in PC games improved, I had to upgrade my computer to run them properly.

Again, going to Sim Lim Square was the answer. There were plenty of shops selling PC components. I couldn't miss them, not when their sales staff shoved product flyers in my face before and after every escalator landing.

A typical trip to Sim Lim Square: I would make a beeline for the fourth and fifth floors and collect flyers listing the prices for PC parts.

Then, I would head to the foodcourt at the basement for a quick bite while comparing the prices.

With my limited budget, I could afford new PC parts only every few months. As every cent mattered, I quickly discovered the shops which offered the best prices.

At that time, it was more important to maximise my savings, so I held my anger in check, even when the customer service at a shop was bad.

When I wasn't shopping for my next upgrade, I would visit the online forum at local website HardwareZone for tips on improving the performance of my PC.

Occasionally, fellow forum visitors would vent their anger at Sim Lim Square retailers for poor service or inflated prices. Sometimes, the shop owner would retaliate, such as in 2000, when a shop owner threatened disgruntled customers with lawsuits over their defamatory postings on HardwareZone's forum.

It has been more than four years since I bought a new PC. I have made the occasional PC upgrade, but one of my more recent purchases was a solid-state drive from Amazon, which cost less than those found at local retailers. It was delivered to my home free of charge.

More than a year ago, I visited Sim Lim Square to buy a new graphics card. Even though I knew that many PC retailers have been replaced by shops which sell mobile devices and laptops, I was still unprepared for how quiet the mall was, even during the weekend.

I had done my homework - the price lists for PC parts can be downloaded from the retailers' websites. It was a quick and painless trip. With only a few customers in the shop, the sales staff whom I encountered was attentive and prompt.

Everything at Sim Lim Square looked cleaner and brighter than I remembered. However, the buzz that I grew up knowing was gone.

vinchang@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 12, 2014.
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